Menlo Girls Varsity Volleyball Team Defeats Sacred Heart 3-2 in a Fairytale-Esque Comeback


Menlo junior and senior spectators pose with members of the girls varsity volleyball team after they defeated Sacred Heart. With the win, the Knights secured a West Bay Athletic League Foothill Division championship for the first time since 2018. Photo courtesy of Kristina Israelski.

Chase Hurwitz, Sports Editor

“In seven years of attending Menlo Athletics events, this was one of the best Menlo games I’ve ever watched,” Sea of Gold Captain Mick Tamas said. 

In a fairytale-esque victory, the Menlo girls varsity volleyball team overcame an initial deficit of 0-2 sets to come back and win the match against Sacred Heart by a score of 3-2 sets. With the win, the Knights secured a West Bay Athletic League Foothill Division championship for the first time since 2018.

Tuesday, October 26: the circumstances were perfect for a huge game. The Gators had home-court advantage, hosting their Senior Night traditions before the game, both teams were playing their last regular season game before CCS league playoffs and the underlying rivalry between Sacred Heart and Menlo meant emotions were running higher than normal. 

“It was definitely more intense because of the rivalry and knowing that it was their Senior Night, but we do well under pressure,”’ senior Jazlin Chen, member of the Menlo girls varsity volleyball team, said.

Entering the game, the Gators held a record of 23-3 with a league record of 8-1. They placed second in the WBAL Foothill Division, trailing only behind the Menlo Knights with an undefeated 9-0 league record and boasting a 25-5 record. A win for the Knights meant an undefeated 10-0 league record and a league championship. A victory for the Gators meant tying for first place in league with Menlo. The stakes were high.

Notably, Menlo volleyball beat Sacred Heart over three weeks prior at home with a blowout score of 3-0.

The Sacred Heart student section was filled, but Menlo fans also boasted a significant crowd with chants led by Sea of Gold Captains Mick Tamas, Tyler Flynn and Carolina Espinosa.

The Gators won the first nail-biting set by a score of 25-23. “I’m not worried,” senior Josh White said as he waited for the second set to begin. “Do I look worried? It’s because I’m not.”

The second set was almost as close, ending with a final score of 25-21 and the Gators on top. Menlo volleyball went down two sets to zero. 

“I wasn’t nervous because even though we lost, they were still close sets, and we were still putting in our all. We just made silly mistakes which we fixed in the last three sets,” senior outside hitter Sharon Nejad said.

“I was pretty nervous, but I’m really happy with how we played and feel like we grew as a team just throughout those five sets,” senior libero Hallie MacDonald said.

The Menlo crowd tensed, and the chants got slightly quieter. But, Menlo fans continued to rally behind their team. “We love a comeback,” senior Jack Giesler said just as the third set began.

More close play ensued as the score stayed almost even throughout the third set. The Knights broke away, however, and won 25-19. With a similar level of play in the fourth set, Menlo won 25-17. The Knights fought their way back to even the match 2-2. Sophomore Cleo Hardin scored a team-high of 16 kills, while MacDonald’s defense kept Menlo in the match with 23 digs.

The whole match depended on the fifth and final 15-point tie breaker set. The Gators took their largest lead with a score of 9-6, but points scored by senior Sharon Nejad, senior Hanna Hoffman and freshman Lily Kautai evened the score 10-10. The Knights carried their momentum, winning the set 15-12, with senior Jazlin Chen delivering the final kill.

The players on the bench rushed onto the court to celebrate with their teammates. They were shortly followed by a group of Menlo juniors and seniors.

“It felt so good to stick it to Sacred Heart, and I was so proud of all the girls on that team,” senior Uma Misha, who watched the game from the Menlo student section, said.

“I was screaming. I was running. I was so proud,” Nejad said. “It’s very uncommon to win a game like that. It was our first game that went to five sets of this season.”